Last weekend we embarked on our South Downs Way odyssey – an epic journey full of emotion, bad map reading and Germolene emergencies. I was a little late owing to a wrong turn in Petworth and the fact that, having been on a speed awareness course last week, I was driving like Miss Marple. Oh yeah, and with no Tom Tom in my car, I was relying on my ‘it’s somewhere around here’ cavalier style of map-reading and the kindness of strangers to locate our rendez-vous, a tiny village called Buriton that was in the arse-end of nowhere. So, an hour late, we all piled into one car and whizzed over Winchester way to another small village which was notable for its fine cottage architecture and a depressed horse. There was a slight delay in starting as my two companions had a struggle to get their poles the right length. Then we lost the dog, who decided she didn’t want to walk 12 miles on her short hairy legs and preferred to run pell-mell up into a stranger’s bedroom. We eventually extricated her by waving a sliver of Tesco’s Finest pressed pork under the bedroom window. And then we were off….Our morning passed pleasingly enough as we traversed along the fine chalky pathways among gently undulating hills although Jeremy (not his real name) began to feel an itch in his general Tomasz Schafanaker region which warranted a bit of pant realignment. After lunch, we were a little disconcerted to find the South Downs Way took us along a very busy A road with very little verge. Brad (not his real name) had the dog on a lead but we were continually being thrust into the hedge by thundering jugganauts and one very aggressive driver even slowed down to say ‘get your fackin’ dog off the road’. We very soon realised that we’d read the map upside down and so had to make a detour through some primrose-festooned woods and up another chalk escarpment to pick up the trail again. By this time, Jeremy’s chafing had escalated and he had to duck off behind some farmyard machinery to apply a slather of Germolene. I took the opportunity to wet my lettuce and only then, did I realise we’d stumbled upon a bunch of paragliders on the other side of the hedge which meant both Jeremy and I had an aerial audience for our arse flashings. That night, having walked 12 miles, we stayed in a pub and ate some pork which, it turned out came from one of Brad’s pigs. Strangely enough, the only other diners in the pub that night were some pudding suppliers from Swanage, two quite rotund individuals who gave us a long lecture about the quality of their Rum Babas. Continuing on a porcine theme, after dinner, we settled down to a game of ‘pass the pigs’ while Jeremy read us a couple of chapters of ‘The adventures of chunky’, courtesy of the pub bookshelf. And so to bed… The following day, we had more mileage and more climbing but the sun shone brilliantly and, thankfully, the Germolene had worked its magic so Jeremy was able to stride out with new-found confidence – although Brad’s dicky knee began playing up. All went well; we had lunch on Butser Hill with some very shouty, bare-chested men, and then we got lost again – this time in Queen Elizabeth Park, right by the A3. We’d taken a detour off the track to visit a cafe in a car park but sadly, the cups of PG and slices of drizzle cake we’d anticipated were a no-show owing to the cafe being closed. We had to make do with my thermos flask of tea (which tasted of coffee) and one Rocky Road biscuit between us and the dog (who had run out of his pooch pellets). However, this did sustain us through the next hour’s twists and turns as we tried to navigate our way out of the woods and back to Buriton and the end of leg one. On the way home, I threw Miss Marple out of the window and assumed my usual Jeremy Clarkson demeanour. Sometimes speed is of the essence.